2012-06-21 / Front Page
Tapping of program fund becoming annual ritual
Forfifth year in a row, CVUSD must redirect money to balance budget
More than $1 million that was to be used for new textbooks and nearly $300,000 for music and arts supplies will instead go toward balancing the Conejo Valley Unified School District budget, the school board decided last week.
The money is just a portion of the $5 million in grants and program funding the district will redirect to the general fund, marking the fifth consecutive year CVUSD has felt compelled to take from its categorical programs fund— which is used to pay for specific instruction-related services. The transfer was approved during a June 5 school board meeting.
CVUSD has moved approximately $11.4 million from its programs fund to the general fund since the 2008-09 school year, when the state first allowed school districts to use the supplemental money for any educational purpose.
Among those programs and grants being sacrificed to the 2012- 13 general fund are:
814,730 in deferred maintenance of buildings, which was matched by CVUSD.
297,000 arts and music block grant.
57,924 allotted for an English tutoring program offered to adults in the community.
1.1 million in instructional materials funds that went toward updating textbooks.
100,244 grant to fund the Global Entrepreneurship program at Thousand Oaks High School, which is now funded by another grant.
194,453 targeted instructional improvement grant that went to bus transportation and the Gifted and Talented Education and Economic Impact Aid programs. EIA provides additional programs and services to English learners in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The annual ritual of boosting the district’s budget with money from categorical programs has slowed building repairs that once accounted for $2 million every summer, said Linda Bekeny, assistant superintendent of business services. Funding for repairs has dipped to about $500,000 annually.
Common repairs include resurfacing asphalt on playgrounds and in parking lots, and fixing roofs. Almost every school in CVUSD would benefit from such projects, Bekeny said, but the district can undertake only the most urgent repairs.
Superintendent Jeff Baarstad said the practice of redirecting money from categorical programs will likely continue through 2014-15, the last year the state will allow it.
After seven years, CVUSD will have diverted $35 million in categorical funds to boost the general budget, he said. Once the district begins to recuperate about $21 million it has lost over the past four years it may restore the programs.
“It’s going to be a long road back,” Baarstad said.
Colleen Briner-Schmidt, president of the Unified Association of Conejo Teachers, said the funding loss hurts kids.
“It’s a short-term fix for a major funding crisis,” she told the Acorn. “Students are holding books together with rubber bands.”
Outdated textbooks have forced teachers to find alternatives online, Briner-Schmidt said.
“We have creative teachers that know how to use other forms of information to instruct students,” she said.
Teachers and parents have even paid for instructional materials such as lab and art supplies from their own pockets, the union president said.
“They’re doing whatever they can to make it work.”